“So, we went to Lucknow to meet Maoist leaders. We walked and talked with them openly. We strolled through the crowded streets and stepped into a small teashop, talked some more, and then we went back to their place. I was surprised to see that they weren’t worried the slightest about who they were and how much they were wanted by the Nepalese people”. These were the startling words from a late night conversation in Brussels with one of Nepal’s most prominent politicians. He was recalling how he met both leaders of the Nepalese Maoist Movement, Dr Baburam Bhattarai and Prachanda in India.
The answer to Nepal’s internal strife is so obvious we don’t see it. Albeit an overdone patriotic adage, India does hold the key to Nepal’s future, not only in terms of mainstream politics, but also with regard to the intensifying Maoist peril. While acknowledging that the Nepalese Maoist movement is a deep-rooted, homegrown revolution that will take years to overcome, we must also confront ourselves with the palpable fact that India hasn’t stopped sprinkling salt on Nepal’s political wound.
There are significant ways India is indirectly aiding the insurgency in Nepal.
First, India is a safe haven for Nepalese Maoist Leaders.
It is an irrefutable fact that India is harboring Nepal’s terrorists. The Royal Nepalese Government, including the Royal Nepalese Army, has repeatedly urged India to incarcerate Maoist leaders. While India plays politics by promising to hunt down Nepal’s terrorists, Indian politicians and government officials meet secretly with high-ranking Maoists like Dr. Bhattarai (an incident that was highly publicized). The recent meeting in New Delhi between political leaders and Maoists was yet another example of India purposely refusing to arrest Maoist Leaders.
Second, it is not difficult to track down and capture Maoist leaders.
If our brilliant politicians like Girija Koirala and Madhav Kumar Nepal can approach them with such ease, if our journalists and media houses have contacts with them, and if even foreign journalists have an effortless time finding them, are we to understand that an intelligence agency belonging to an emerging super power cannot hunt down Nepal’s Maoist leaders? Even a privately funded “bounty-hunting” team could track them down in India. So, why not do so with a highly coordinated and well-funded intelligence service, such as that of India?
Third, where are the arms coming from?
We would have to be too naive to think that all of the weapons Maoists hold come from post-battle lootings from the Royal Nepalese Army or Nepalese Police. They certainly don’t come from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan or Tibet. The long border we have with India is an “ammunition pump” for Nepal’s terrorist movement. We are not talking about smuggling minute amounts of pistols and bullets. These are massive amounts of weapons, large enough to equip thousands of Maoist foot soldiers. And then you might ponder over the question of who is selling them. The Indian Maoists and other such groups that are supporting Nepal’s Maoist revolution are far too weak to possess such resources. Think however, what happens to antiquated Indian army weapons. They are expensive to destroy and expensive to store, while profit can be made from selling these unwanted weapons. Consequently, I lean toward the idea that corrupt generals from notorious surrounding states like Bihar are secretly selling antediluvian and unusable arms to Nepalese Maoists. Previous research done by Nepalese journalists with the help of ex-Gorkha soldiers from India has revealed the astonishing link between splinter groups of the Indian army and Nepal’s Maoist movement. It even claims that factions of retired Indian Army officers are providing 3 to 4 day training “capsules” to Nepalese Maoist recruits.
Fourth, most of Nepal’s Maoist leaders are Indian-educated.
How can we ever gauge the connections that a leader like Dr Bhattarai must have garnered in the campuses of Jawaharlal Nehru University during his PHD years? How can we measure the number of acquaintances that Chairman Prachanda has with groups like The People’s War Group (PWG), the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) even before Nepal’s so-called “People’s War”? Today, Nepal’s Maoist movement has joined the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) and is being provided aid, security and arms by pro-Maoist parties in India. There are Indian fingerprints on Nepal’s insurgency since its very infancy.
Fifth, even after requests from the Nepalese government, India hasn’t handed Nepal many of the Maoist leaders arrested in India.
The most shocking news came after the arrest of Mohan Vaidya alias ‘Kiran’ (one of the top five Nepalese Maoist leaders). He was granted the status of a ‘political prisoner’ by an Indian court, which will provide him leeway and facilities that other normal prisoners will not receive. How can Nepalese Maoist leaders, who have so much blood on their hands and are acknowledged by India as ‘terrorists’, still receive such flexibility in punishment?
Sixth, the Nepali population in India is adding fuel to this Maoist fire.
The major organizations close to the Maoists that are active in India are the All India Nepali Unity Society, the All India Nepali Students’ Association, the All India Nepali Youth Association and the All India Ethnic Society. Even the once neutral Akhil Bharatiya Nepal Ekta Samaj (ABNES), established for unity and betterment of the Nepali community in India, has been delving into dissident revolutionary activities. While the Indian government assures Nepal that it is doing its best to help, it turns a blind eye on open Maoist activities throughout the country. In the words of Prachanda during his speech at the Second National Conference of CPN (M) in February 2001, ” – the success of the Nepalese People’s War and revolution cannot be imagined if Nepalese dwelling in India are separated from it – ”
Seven, Indian Maoists have already infiltrated the Nepalese “People’s War”.
During the Muga/Dhankuta attacks in 2004 where several high level Royal Nepalese Army Officers were killed, there were reports that Indian women were behind the beheadings. The Terai region has become a safe haven for Indian Maoists, similar to how Nepalese Maoists have found a safe haven in India.
So, now you must be wondering how India would benefit from perpetual turmoil in Nepal. Just think of the economic benefits. Remember companies like Kodak that moved their factories from Nepal to India? They did this primarily because Nepal was too unstable. Think about the divergence of tourism from Nepal to India, or the hindrance of tourists that have already traveled to India and who wished to visit Nepal. Think about Nepalese businessmen going to India for investment opportunities or poor Nepalese laborers that migrate to India looking for work. Think about the multinationals that utilize cheap labor. For them India is a far better business investment than Nepal because of the insurgency. Like it or not, India is cashing in on Nepal’s agony.
We must get past the “big brother, small brother” mentality we have regarding India, however, we must also recognize to what extent India has cheated us. While we burn tires on the streets of Kathmandu and parade for the name of democracy at home, we overlook the fact that India holds Nepal’s cure to terrorism. While a brother kills a brother at home, India facilitates those responsible for mass murder and heartless torture. It is true that, at home, we don’t even have a democracy. But in today’s Nepal, where guns speak louder than words, we have to think about the safety and security of the nation before we start protesting for democracy. This is not a call to divert blame from one faction to another. However, we are directing our anguish and aggravation toward the wrong path, and by doing so we are simply hurting ourselves and impeding any sort of development in the country.
At a time when we’re being cornered and attacked from all sides by Maoists, it is important to keep in mind that it is still possible to win this war. However, we must be willing to confront our “big brother”. It is about time we grasp the extent to which India is crippling our nation.
While China and Pakistan feed the Royal Nepalese Army with fresh ammunition on one side, the Maoists are being fed by India from the other side. How long are we going to protest against ourselves? How long are we going to close down our own schools and our own shops?
While our “astute” Nepali politicians journey to India for blessings from the Indian government, Dr Bhattarai will be giving his interview to the BBC Nepali Service from the comfort of Indian soil. While we read the grotesque news of more brothers being killed at home, we will switch on the TV and see Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the Maoist Spokesman, giving an interview to CNN, comfortably strolling through a University Park in India. How long are we going to be blind to the obvious? It’s time to put the clues together. The solution to Nepal’s grave difficulty is not with the King, nor is it with political parties. In fact, the answer doesn’t lie in the country at all. The true pragmatic solution to our misery lies somewhere across the border, in India.
Nishchal MS Basnyat is currently a student at Harvard University.
By Nishchal M.S. Basnyat